TURLOCK — TURLOCK The physical impact of Kevin Kellerher's return to the Buhach Colony lineup was obvious Friday night against Pitman.
The three-year defensive lineman instantly became the biggest player on the Thunder defense and provided a much-needed presence up the middle that's been lacking the first six weeks of the season.
Feeding off of Kellerher's energy, the Thunder defense shut out one of the Sac-Joaquin Section's top scoring offenses in a 10-0 Central California Conference-opening victory Friday night at Joe Debely Stadium.
The Thunder defense came into the game yielding an average of 39 points. But Kellerher's return gave Buhach Colony an emotional lift that provided a much-maligned defense what it needed to shut down the Pitman offense.
"We knew what he could do for us in terms of his play, but he also provided this emotional lift," BC co-head coach Kevin Swartwood said.
Odds are Pitman (4-2, 0-1 CCC) felt it, too.
Buhach Colony (3-3, 1-0 CCC) served notice it would be a different kind of evening by forcing a fumble on the Pride's opening possession.
Neither offense could get much footing in the first half with BC's best drive ending at the Pitman 39-yard line on a Justin Stefani (15 carries for 74 yards) fumble.
Pitman answered with a drive that stalled at the Thunder 17 with a missed 34-yard field goal.
That sent the game into intermission scoreless.
Things turned BC's way permanently on Pitman's opening possession of the second half. The Pride went three-and-out and Austin Ekizian blocked the ensuing punt.
The Thunder took over at the Pitman 9-yard line with a first-and-goal, but had to settle for an Aundre Sherman 23-yard field goal.
Quintin Levesque (9 carries, 107 yards) provided the back-breaking play on Buhach's next series, taking a fly sweep 78 yards for a touchdown to make it 10-0 at the end of three quarters.